JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – The terror group Hamas will agree to a “gradual” cease-fire with Israel, according to a report Monday in the London-based Saudi paper Asharq al-Awsat.
Israel has not publicly responded to the report, although speculation has grown in Israel after an announcement last week that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would cancel his upcoming trip to Colombia for the inauguration of the new president there.
Hamas leaders have been meeting for several days in Gaza to discuss the Egyptian-brokered agreement. The Asharq al-Aswat story indicates that Hamas wants a “gradual” cease-fire, the first stage of which Hamas would stop its terror activities against Israel from the Gaza Strip, including rocket firings and arson attacks with incendiary kites and balloons, as well as attempts by Gaza protesters to cross into Israel.
The border protests continued this weekend with an estimated 8,000 demonstrators hurling rocks at Israeli soldiers and burning tires. Fire officials in Israel said incendiary balloons and kites set off nearly 50 fires in Israel this weekend alone. The fires have charred more than 7,500 acres this summer.
A 17-year-old Palestinian died Sunday from injuries he sustained in Friday clashes with Israel Defense Forces troops.
Israel’s obligation during the first stage of the proposed cease-fire would be to ease the restrictions on goods going through crossing points at the Israeli border. Israel would also expand the fishing zone for Palestinians off the coast of Gaza.
Israeli officials have repeatedly cautioned there will be no deal unless Hamas returns the bodies of two soldiers thought to be in Hamas hands since the soldiers were killed during Operation Protective Edge four years ago. Israel also demands the release of a prisoner said to have mental health issues, thought to be a hostage of Hamas.
Israel’s Security Cabinet discussed the pros and cons of a deal with Hamas for several hours, but the Times of Israel reports they didn’t reach a conclusion and did not conduct a vote.